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Compare and contrast the ways in which Maya Angelou and John Agard respond to others' ideas of their cultures and oppression.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the ways in which Maya Angelou and John Agard respond to others' ideas of their cultures and oppression. Maya Angelou and John Agard's poems are both responses to someone or some people who have wronged them. John Agard sounds as though he is correcting a stranger on their use of the term "Half-Caste" and telling them exactly what he thinks is implied by these words and Maya Angelou seems to be addressing her demons and people like her abuser after she has become successful. Both works are concerned with prejudice. 'Still I Rise' is structured in couplets and has a very clear climax stanza. 'Half-Caste' doesn't flow like 'Still I Rise', rather is dishes out it's words in one big main course with a brief starter, tempting you to read on and discover what he means by "Standing on one leg, I'm Half-Caste", and a just desserts at the end for the unintentional offender. Both poets led very different lives, right from the outset. John Agard was born on a Caribbean island called Guyana, he was born to two loving parents. His father was black and his mother was white. ...read more.

Middle

"I half-caste human being cast half a shadow" This short phrase stood out for me because it is, like many other parts of the poem, sarcastic, and therefore humorous. He responds to abuse not with anger, but with a mixture of frustration, pity and amusement. Also it shows that the abuser may see Agard's heritage as a shadow; a burden he cannot escape. Angelou's poem contains just as many clever metaphors and euphemisms. "I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise" The "black" refers to her African heritage. "Ocean" represents how big and influential the black community has been to the human race. 'Still I Rise' is couplets all the way through with a clear pattern in the layout of the stanzas. One ends with "Still I'll rise" or something similar, and the next one starts with a rhetorical question, for example "Did you want to see me broken?". The poem ends with a climax of metaphor, repetition of "I Rise" and many references to slavery and poverty. 'Half-Caste' climaxes also, asking the person who questioned Agard's heritage to treat him as he would treat a normal person rather than a half human abomination. ...read more.

Conclusion

"England weather nearly always half-caste in fact some o dem cloud half cast till dem overcast so spiteful dem don't want de sun pass" This part of the poem is different from the rest of the piece. It does not seem immediately angry, and it is not sarcastic. The only tone I can imagine this part being read in is a sad one. 'Half-Caste' holds a sarcastic tone in most of it, as other emotions such as frustration and sadness leak through. It builds up well to a great climax, where the message is made clear. 'Still I Rise' has a patronising tone throughout, and appears to be talking to Maya's abuser and racist people on the whole. Both poets are forgiving and understanding. I enjoyed Agard's poem more than Angelou's. I felt his view was more original and the use of humour in his piece kept me interested. Maya's couplets were entertaining enough, and the message of her poem is just as relevant as 'Half-Caste' but I felt it was lacking an interesting structure. Though I can't choose between the two endings, both included repetition and were creative. The Morals of both poems are anti-racism and display messages of hope and pride. Although I can relate to neither, I found them both to be memorable reads. ...read more.

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